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Full text of "The Boston public library : a handbook to the library building, its mural decorations and its collections"

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Reference Librarian. 






COPYRIGHT 1916, 1920, 1921. 



Copyright notice: In addition to the general copyright which 
covers the text and illustrations, the engravings of the Sargent 
paintings on pages 35 to 57 are from "Association Prints," 
copyright 1916, 1919 by the Boston Public Library Employees 
Benefit Association, these prints being made from the original 
paintings, copyright, 1916, 1919, by the Trustees of the Public 
Library of the City of Boston. A price list of the "Association 
Prints" and other pictures for sale at the post-card counter in the 
Library will be found on the inside of the cover. 



Founded in 1852, first opened to the public in 
1854, the Boston Public Library is the oldest free 
municipal library in any American city in fact, in 
any city in the world. It received its first large gift from 
Joshua Bates, a London banker, born in Weymouth, 
Mass., and its first building, in Boylston Street, on the 
site now occupied by the Colonial Building, was opened 
in 1858, when the Library contained seventy thousand 
volumes, aside from pamphlets. In 1895, it was 
removed to its present location in Copley Square, and, 
in 1 920, it possesses nearly one and a quarter million 
volumes, of which about three-fourths are in the Central 
Library and one-fourth in the thirty Branch Libraries 
and Reading Rooms in various parts of the City. It 
annually lends more than two million volumes for use 
at home ; its working force consists of nearly five hun- 
dred persons ; and its total annual expenditure consider- 
ably exceeds a half-million dollars, of which only four 
per cent is derived from the income of its trust funds, the 
rest being appropriated by the City Government. The 
control of the Library is vested in an unpaid board of 
five Trustees, appointed by the Mayor. 


The Library building, elevated upon a platform on 
the west side of Copley Square, is constructed of 


granite from Milford, Massachusetts ; it is two hundred 
and twenty-five feet long, two hundred and twenty- 
seven feet deep, and seventy feet high, from sidewalk 
to cornice; an annex on Blagden Street, opened in 
1918, adds sixty-eight feet to the depth of the building. 
Along the front of the building, at the edge of the 
sidewalk, are low granite posts, the larger of which 
bear heraldic eagles. 

The architects of the Library, designed in the style 
of the Italian Renaissance, were McKim, Mead & 
White, of New York; most of the actual design is 
the work of Mr. Charles Pollen McKim. 

A heavy lower story, in effect a high basement, 
supports an upper story lighted by lofty arched win- 
dows, and completed by a rich cornice, ornamented 
with lions' heads and dolphins. The roof, of red tiles, 
is finished above by an ornate copper cresting which 
softens the sky line. Beneath the great window arches 
are tablets inscribed with the world's foremost names. 
Immediately above the central entrance are the signifi- 
cant words, FREE TO ALL. Each of the three facades 
bears a bold inscription, just below the cornice. That 
on the front of the building runs: THE PUBLIC LI- 
ston Street inscription is: THE COMMONWEALTH RE- 
tion on the Blagden Street side reads: MDCCCLII. 


On the platform in front of the Library, set into 
massive granite pedestals, are two heroic seated figures 
in bronze, the work of the Boston sculptor, Bela L. 



Pratt, that at the left representing Science, that at the 
right Art. On the pedestals are carved the names of 
the world's most eminent scientists and artists. 

The head of Minerva on the keystone of the cen- 
tral entrance arch is the work of Augustus St. Gaudens 
and Domingo Mora. Above, under the great central 
windows, are three carved seals upon backgrounds of 
foliage, all of them sculptured by St. Gaudens; from 
left to right, the seals are those of the Commonwealth, 
of the Library, and of the City of Boston. The seal 
of the Library has two nude boys, bearing great 
torches, as supporters; the Latin motto above signifies 
"The Light of all Citizens." The thirty-three granite 
medallions in the spandrels of the window arches on the 
three facades contain the picturesque marks or trade 
devices of early printers, carved by Mr. Mora. 


The vestibule is of unpolished Tennessee marble; 
in a niche at the left is a heroic bronze statue of Sir 
Harry Vane, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay 
Colony in 1 636, the work of Frederick MacMonnies. 
The building is entered from the vestibule through three 
noble doorways, copied from the entrance of the Erech- 
theum at Athens; the double bronze doors which 
they enclose were designed by Daniel Chester French. 
Each door contains a graceful allegorical figure, in low 
relief; above are garlands, enclosing the names of the 
figures; below each figure is an appropriate quotation. 
On the left-hand doors are the figures of Music and 
Poetry; on those in the centre, Knowledge and Wis- 
dom; on the right-hand doors, Truth and Romance. 


This low hall is Roman in design, with vaults and 
arches covered with mosaic, and supported by massive 

pillars of Iowa sandstone. The mosaic ceiling over 
the centre aisle shows a vine-covered trellis; at each 
side, in the penetrations of the arches and the pen- 
dentives of the small domes, are thirty names which 
have given fame to Boston; in the most prominent 
positions, at either side of the central aisle, the names 
are those of Hawthorne, Peirce (Benjamin Peirce, the 
mathematician) , Adams, Franklin, Emerson, and Long- 
fellow. The floor, of Georgia marble, is inlaid in 
brass with the signs of the zodiac, the seal of the 
Library, the great dates in its history, and the names 
of eight of its early benefactors. 

Corridors open at each side of the Entrance Hall, 
leading on the right to the Open Shelf Room, the In- 
formation Office, the Government News Service Room, 
the Newspaper and Periodical Rooms, and the Interior 
Court; and on the left to the Coat Room, the Elevator, 
the Public Stenographer's Office, the Catalogue and 
Ordering Departments, and again to the Court. 
Through the Court are reached the Public Toilet 
Rooms, the Patent Room, the files of bound newspa- 
pers, and the Statistical Department. Public telephone 
booths are near the entrance to the Newspaper Room. 


The Information Office is a sort of first-aid station, 
prepared to answer all sorts of questions with the least 
possible delay. From it open, to the left, the Open 
Shelf Room, containing a selected collection of popu- 
lar books for circulation ; and to the right, the Govern- 
ment News Service Room. This room, opened in the 
fall of 1919, is a unique depository of the latest ma- 
terial issued by the United States Government, received 
by mail from Washington daily; the collection is kept 
more completely up to date than that contained in any 
other library in the country. On the walls is a series 
of twelve original designs for posters, made by their 









artists as a contribution to the work of the United 
States Food Administration during the recent war. 

The Newspaper Room contains the current news- 
papers, nearly three hundred in number, received by 
the Library from all parts of the world, the subscriptions 
to which are paid from the income of the fund of fifty 
thousand dollars given for the purpose by the late 
William C. Todd, of Atkinson, N. H. 

In the two rooms devoted to Periodicals will be 
found the current numbers of between thirteen and 
fourteen hundred periodicals in various languages, and 
also some twenty-five thousand bound volumes of maga- 
zines, with indexes for aid in their use. In addition 
to these, about two hundred and fifty periodicals are 
received and filed in other departments of the Library. 


The rooms at the left are not open to the public, 
except the Coat Room, for the care of umbrellas and 
wraps during the winter and in stormy weather, and 
the office of the Public Stenographer, who may be 
employed for copying material in the Library. 

The Catalogue Department cares for all details of 
placing the books on the shelves and of preparing the 
cards for the various card catalogues; it also issues 
special catalogues and reading-lists based on the re- 
sources of the Library. 

The Ordering Department has charge of all matters 
connected with the acquisition of books, by purchase, 
gift, or exchange. 


Perhaps the finest architectural feature of the Library 
is the interior court, with walls of grayish-yellow brick, 
and a vaulted arcade of white marble on the ground 
floor; this arcade, of graceful proportions, is an almost 

exact copy of the famous one in the Palazzo della 
Cancelleria in Rome, one of the most perfect creations 
of the early Renaissance. About the arcade are set 
broad oak benches, much used by readers in warm 
weather. The court has a grassplot in the centre, 
enclosing a square marble basin lined with mosaic, 
and a fountain. In the granite walls of the arcade 
are two memorials in bronze: a bust of General 
Francis A. Walker, once a Trustee of the Library, by 
Richard E. Brooks ; and a medallion portrait of Robert 
C. Billings, one of the Library's greatest benefactors, 
by Augustus St. Gaudens. 


From the Entrance Hall opens the main stairway, 
leading to the principal floor of the Library, a structure 
of rare beauty and dignity. The walls are of yellow 
Siena marble, richly veined, which was specially quar- 
ried for the Library ; the steps are of French chaillon 
marble, ivory-gray, and full of fossil shells; the floor 
of the half-way landing is inlaid with red Numidian 
marble. The ceiling is of plaster, richly panelled; 
from it depends a spherical chandelier of cut glass. 
The door on the landing opens on a balcony affording 
an attractive view of the interior court, which is, 
however, best seen from the arcade which surrounds it. 

The great lions, at the turn of the stairs, carved 
from blocks of the precious Siena marble, are the work 
of Louis St. Gaudens; each is a memorial to the 
officers and men of a Massachusetts regiment in the Civil 
War the Second Regiment on the right, the Twenti- 
eth on the left, as one mounts the stairs. It will be 
noted that these lions are not treated conventionally, 
but that each is an individual. The inscriptions on the 
pedestals contain lists of the battles in which the two 
regiments were engaged. 





The upper part of the walls of the staircase and that 
of the main corridor of the second floor at its head is 
filled with a series of mural 
decorations by Pierre Ce- 
cile Puvis de Chavannes, 
the acknowledged master 
of modern French mural 
painting. All were painted 
in his studio in France and 
shipped to this country, to 
be affixed to the walls of 
a room which the artist 
never saw; the work was 
done with the help of 
architectural models and 
samples of marble, and 
harmonizes perfectly with 
its setting. 

The paintings in the 


eight arched panels above 

the stairway symbolize the important branches of litera- 
ture and learning, in compositions of great beauty and 
dignity. As one faces the windows, the left-hand wall 
(that shown in the illustration opposite) is occupied by 
representations of Philosophy, Astronomy, and His- 
tory; the right-hand wall by the three great types of 
Poetry, Epic, Dramatic, and Pastoral; the rear wall, 
beside the windows, by Chemistry on the left, and 
Physics on the right. 

The panel devoted to Philosophy shows Plato talk- 
ing with one of his disciples in a beautiful Athenian 
landscape, perhaps the Academy, with a noble Ionic 
colonnade at the left, and in the background, above a 
grove, the Acropolis, with the gleaming Parthenon; 
other students of philosophy are grouped about the 


Astronomy is typified by two Chaldean shepherds, 
earliest observers of the heavens; a woman looks out 
upon them from a tent at the left of the picture. 

The third panel on the left shows the Muse of 
History standing above the partly buried ruins of a 
Doric temple, conjuring it to yield up its secrets ; beside 
her is the Genius of Learning, with book and torch. 

In the panel at the left of the windows, illustrating 
Chemistry, a fairy stands in a rocky niche, watching 
three winged spirits as they heat fragments of ore in 
a retort. 

In that to the right, devoted to Physics, two female 
figures, symbolizing Good and Bad News respectively, 
float in the air with their hands upon the wires of the 
telegraph, magical carrier of happy and sorrowful 

The three panels devoted to Poetry show, at the 
left, Virgil in an idyllic landscape, visiting his bee- 
hives, while two of the shepherds of his Eclogues idle 
at a distance; in the centre, scroll in hand, Aeschylus 
seated on a cliff overlooking the sea, with his hero 
Prometheus in the background, chained to a great rock, 
where the Oceanides circle round to comfort him for 
the pain caused by the vulture which tears at his vitals ; 
at the right, blind Homer sitting by the roadside, greeted 
with gifts of laurel by two dignified female figures typi- 
fying his great poems, the martial Iliad with helmet and 
spear, the gentler Odyssey with an oar to suggest her 

The central composition, on the east wall of the 
corridor at the head of the stairs, is entitled 'The 
Muses of Inspiration hail the Spirit, the Messenger of 
Light" ; it represents the Nine Muses of Greek my- 
thology, in a beautiful grove of laurel and olive which 
slopes to the sea, rising to meet and welcome the Genius 
of Enlightenment, who appears in the centre of the 
painting, above the doorway. At each side of the 
doorway is a grave, seated figure, that on the left 
typifying Study, that on the right Contemplation. 





Across the second floor of the Library, at the head of 
the stairs, runs a beautiful corridor, floored with Istrian 
marble, with patterns of yellow Verona in which many 
large fossil shells may be seen. On one side is a 
graceful Corinthian arcade of Siena marble, above 
the staircase; on the other, the largest of the Puvis 
de Chavannes decorations, and the central entrance 
to Bates Hall, the main reading-room, reached through 
an exquisite little vestibule of chaillon marble, en- 
closed on three sides by ancient wrought iron gates 
brought from Italy. At the south end of the Corridor 
is the Pompeian Lobby and entrance to the Delivery 
Room; at the north end, the Venetian Lobby, with 
entrance to the Children's Room. 


This noble reading-room, named for the first great 
benefactor of the Library, is architecturally the most 
important room in the building; it has a rich barrel 
vault, with half-domes at the ends, and is two hundred 
and eighteen feet long, forty-two and a half feet wide, 
and fifty feet high. The sandstone used in the walls is 
from Amherst, Ohio ; the floor is of terrazzo, bordered 
by yellow Verona marble; the Hall is surrounded by 
oak bookcases ; and the panelled vault is of plaster, 
elaborately moulded. Around the sides of the Hall 
are busts of great authors and eminent Bostonians; in 
the frieze are carved the names of the world's most 
illustrious thinkers and artists. Above the central 
entrance is a richly carved balcony of Indiana lime- 
stone. Near each end of the Hall, in the same wall 
as the balcony, is a highly ornate doorway of black 
Belgian and Alps green serpentine marble, with columns 
crowned by bronze Corinthian capitals; in the adjoin- 


ing bays are Renaissance mantels, of sandstone and 
red Verona marble. The wall is divided into panels 
by the great arches of the vault; those on the front 
of the building are filled with huge round-topped 

Bates Hall is the great study room of the Library. 
In the bookcases which line the walls and occupy both 
sides of the screens separating the main room from 
the apses, are contained some ten thousand volumes 
intended for ready reference; they have been selected 
from all fields of literature except those of the fine and 
industrial arts, and psychology and pedagogy, subjects 
which have their home in other departments of the 
institution. 1 hese books may be used without for- 
mality by all who come to the building. Other books 
may be sent to the Hall from all parts of the Library 
for the use of readers; call-slips may be obtained at 
any of the desks. 

The tables accommodate three hundred readers; 
often, especially on Sunday afternoons, every seat is 
occupied. At the Centre Desk, opposite the main 
entrance to the Hall, general information is supplied 
and books are charged for home use. 


In the semi-circular enclosure at the south end of the 
Hall is the Public Card Catalogue, containing a list 
of all the books in the Library, except fiction for 
general circulation and works relating to music. The 
cards are arranged in 2743 drawers, in a single alpha- 
bet, covering authors, subjects, and titles; from them 
are obtained the call-numbers, which are used in send- 
ing for books. A pamphlet entitled "How to Find 
and Procure a Book" may be had on application at 
the Centre Desk ; for assistance in using the catalogue, 
inquiry should be made at the desk in the enclosure. 










The southern door of the Main Corridor leads into 
the Delivery Room, where books are lent for home use, 
and returned by borrow- 
ers. This is a room of 
peculiar richness, in the 
style of the early Vene- 
tian Renaissance. The 
walls have a high oak 
wainscot, divided into 
panels by fluted pilas- 
ters ; the heavy beams 
of the ceiling bear rich 
Renaissance ornaments 
in glided lead ; the door- 
ways have Corinthian 
columns of red or green 
Levanto marble, with 
bases and capitals of 
Rouge Antique, and en- 
tablatures in which these marbles are combined. The 
ornate mantel of polished Rouge Antique bears the 
date 1852, that of the founding of the Library. The 
lamp brackets, of delicately wrought bronze, are of 
special beauty. 

In front of the windows is a portion of the ancient 
wooden railing before which, in the year 1607, some 
of the Pilgrim Fathers stood for trial in the Guild- 
hall of Boston, Lincolnshire, England. To the left of 
the window is the catalogue of fiction in the English 

The entire room was designed by the American 
artist, Edwin Austin Abbey, R.A., whose great frieze, 
the "Quest of the Holy Grail," occupies the upper part 
of the walls. The following description of these paint- 
ings, which have made the room world-famous, is based 
on that written by the late Henry James: 




The Holy Grail was fabled to be the sacred vessel 
from which our Lord had drunk at the Last Supper, 
and into which Joseph of Arimathea had gathered the 
precious blood from His wounds. Its existence, its 
preservation, its miraculous virtues and properties, were 
a cherished popular belief in the early ages of European 
Christianity; and in the folk-lore whence the twelfth- 
century narrators drew their material, it was represented 
as guarded for centuries in the Castle of the Grail, 
where it awaited the coming of the perfect knight, who 
alone should be worthy to have knowledge of it; this 
perfect knight is introduced to us in the romances of 
the Arthurian cycle. 

Incomparable were the properties of the Grail, the 
enjoyment of a revelation of which conveyed, among 
other privileges, the ability to live, and to cause others 
to live, indefinitely without food ; this revelation was the 
proof and recompense of the highest knightly purity, 
so that the loftiest conceivable enterprise for the com- 
panions of the Round Table was to attain to the vision 
of the Holy Grail. The incarnation of this ideal 
knighthood in the form of the legend chosen by Mr. 
Abbey is that stainless Sir Galahad, with whom Tenny- 
son, in more than one great poem, has touched the 
imagination of all readers. 

It must be noted, however, that Mr. Abbey has 
made a new synthesis of the Grail material. There 
exist many separate romances devoted to the Quest 
of the Grail, in some of which Galahad is the hero, 
in a larger number Perceval (German, Parzival), in 
still others Gawain or Lancelot. There is no single 

* As it has proved impossible to make satisfactory arrangements 
with those who hold the copyright of the Abbey paintings (the 
only mural decorations in the Library of which the copyright is 
not controlled by the Trustees), it is unfortunately necessary to 
publish this description without illustrations. 


accepted version of the story, no fixed order in which the 
incidents occur. Mr. Abbey has taken certain episodes 
of the story of Galahad, has added to them others 
drawn from the story of Perceval, and has arranged 
them somewhat with a view to the requirements of his 
space in the Delivery Room. In most versions of the 
story, the visit to the Castle of the Maidens precedes 
the first visit to the Grail Castle; but the order has 
no special significance. The numbers used in the de- 
scription below correspond to those beneath the lower 
right-hand corner of each panel. 


The child Galahad, the descendant through his 
mother of Joseph of Arimathea, is visited, among the 
nuns who bring him up, by a dove bearing a golden 
censer and an angel carrying the Grail, the presence 
of which operates as sustenance to the infant. 

From the hands of the holy women the predestined 
boy passed into those of the subtle Gurnemanz, who 
instructed him in the knowledge of the things of the 
world, and in the duties and functions of the ideal 
knight. But before leaving the nuns he performed his 
nightly vigil, watching alone till dawn in the church. 


The ordeal of the vigil terminates in his departure. 
Clothed in red, he is girt for going forth, while the 
nuns bring to him Sir Lancelot really his father, 
though unrecognized who fastens on one of his 
spurs, and Sir Bors, who attaches the other. 


The artist here deals with the Arthurian Round 
Table and the curious fable of the Seat Perilous 
"perilous for good and evil" - in which no man has 
yet sat with safety, not even the fashioner himself, but 
in which, standing vacant while it awaits a blameless 
occupant, the young Sir Galahad, knighted by Arthur, 
has sworn a vow to be worthy to take his place. The 


Companions of the Order are seated in Arthur's hall, 
and every chair, save this one, is occupied. Suddenly 
the doors and windows close mysteriously, the hall is 
flooded with light, and Sir Galahad, robed in red (the 
color emblematic of purity), is led in by Joseph of 
Arimathea, an old man clothed in white, who, accord- 
ing to the romance, has subsisted for centuries by the 
possession of the supreme relic. The hall is filled with 
a host of angels, one of whom withdraws the mantle 
by which the Seat Perilous has been covered ; above it 
becomes visible the legend, "This is the Seat of Gala- 
had." King Arthur rises from his canopied throne, 
and bows himself in the presence of a mystery; the 
knights recognize one purer than themselves, and greet 
him by lifting on high the cross-shaped hilts of their 


The knights are about to go forth on their search 
for the Holy Grail, now formally instituted by King 
Arthur. They have heard Mass and are receiving the 
episcopal benediction, Sir Galahad, as always, in red. 
Throughout this series he is the "bright boy-knight" of 
Tennyson, though not, as that poet represents him, 
"white-armored": his device is a red cross on a white 


Amfortas, the "Fisher King" of the legends, to whom 
Joseph had entrusted the Grail, has been wounded, 
centuries past, in the cause of unlawful love, and now 
lies under a spell, with all the inmates of the Castle of 
the Grail, into which the artist here introduces us. The 
aged King rests on a bier in the centre of a massive 
hall, surrounded by his court; all are spiritually dead 
and, although the Grail often appears in the midst of 
them, they cannot see it. From this strange perpetua- 
tion of ineffectual life none of them can be liberated by 
death until the most blameless knight shall at last arrive. 

* Includes elements drawn from the story of Perceval. 


It will not be sufficient, however, that he simply pene- 
trate into the castle; to the operation of the remedy is 
attached that condition which recurs so often in primitive 
romance, the asking of a question on which everything 
depends. Sir Galahad has reached his goal, but his 
single slight taint of imperfection, begotten of the too 
worldly teachings of Gurnemanz, defeats his beneficent 
action. As the procession of the Grail passes before 
the visitor, he tries to fathom its meaning. He sees the 
bearer of the Grail, the damsel with the head in a 
golden dish (the prototype of whom was, perhaps, 
Salome bearing the head of John the Baptist on a 
charger), the two knights with seven-branched candle- 
sticks and the knight holding aloft the Bleeding Spear, 
with which Longinus had pierced the side of Christ. 
The duty resting upon Galahad is to ask what these 
things denote, but, with the presumption of one who 
supposes himself to have imbibed all knowledge, he 
refrains, considering that he is competent to guess. But 
he pays for his silence, inasmuch as it forfeits for him 
the glory of redeeming from this paralysis of centuries 
the old monarch and his hollow-eyed Court, forever 
dying, yet never dead, whom he leaves folded in their 
dreadful doom. On his second visit, many years later, 
he is better inspired. (See XI, below.) 


It is the morning after his visit to the Castle of the 
Grail. Awakening in the chamber to which he had 
been led the previous night, Sir Galahad found the 
castle deserted. Issuing forth, he saw his horse saddled 
and the drawbridge down. Thinking to find in the 
forest the inmates of the castle, he rode forth, but the 
drawbridge closed suddenly behind him, a wail of 
despair moaned across it, and voices mocked him for 
having failed to ask the effectual Question. 

He fares forward and presently meets three damsels ; 
the first, the Loathly Damsel, is riding upon a pale 
* From the story of Perceval. 


mule with a golden bridle. This lady, once beautiful, 
is now noble still in form, but hideous in feature; she 
wears a red cloak, and a hood about her head, for she 
is bald; in her arms is the head of a dead king, en- 
circled with a golden crown. The second lady is riding 
in the manner of an esquire. The third is on her feet, 
dressed as a stripling, and in her hand is a scourge with 
which she drives the two animals. These damsels 
are under the spell of the Castle of the Grail. They 
assail Sir Galahad with curses for having failed on the 
previous day to ask the Question, which would not only 
have delivered them and the inmates of the castle, but 
would have restored peace and plenty to the land. 
Instead, he must endure many sorrows and adventures 
and many years must pass before he shall return to the 
Castle of the Grail, where, having through all ordeals 
remained sinless, he will finally ask the Question which 
shall redeem the sin-stricken land. 


Sir Galahad is here seen at the gate of the Castle of 
the Maidens, where the seven Knights of Darkness, the 
seven Deadly Sins, have imprisoned a great company of 
maidens, the Virtues, in order to keep them from all 
contact with man. It is Sir Galahad's mission to 
overcome Sin and redeem the world by setting free 
the Virtues, and he accordingly fights the seven knights 
till he overcomes them. 


Having passed the outer gate, Sir Galahad en- 
counters a monk, who blesses him and delivers up to 
him the great key of the Castle. 


Sir Galahad's entry into the Castle is here shown. 
The imprisoned maidens have long been expecting him, 
for it had been prophesied that the perfect knight would 
come to deliver them. They welcome him with shy 
delight, putting out their hands to be kissed; behind 


him lies his white shield bearing the red cross painted 
with his own blood by Josephes, son of Joseph of 
Arimathea. Having accomplished this mission, Sir 
Galahad passed on to other deeds. 


In the course of his journeyings, Galahad met his 
old teacher Gurnemanz, now dying. Gurnemanz bade 
him wed his early love Blanchefleur as a step toward 
the achievement of the Grail. On their wedding morn- 
ing, however, a vision warned him that he must remain 
a virgin knight, and we see him here bidding farewell 
to Blanchefleur that he may continue the Quest of the 
Holy Grail. A new-born knowledge has unsealed Sir 
Galahad's eyes, but with this knowledge is begotten the 
strength to overcome, and to renounce every human 


Having passed through many adventures, Sir Gala- 
had at last returned to the Castle of the Grail. The 
procession once more passed before him, and this time, 
grown wise by experience and suffering, he asked the 
Question and thereby healed Amfortas, cleansing him 
from sin, and allowing the old king to die. As he 
gratefully breathes his last in the arms of Galahad, an 
Angel bears away the Grail from the castle, not to be 
seen again until the day when Sir Galahad achieves it 
at Sarras, the Saracen city to which Joseph had first 
carried the precious vessel. 


Sir Galahad, having now accomplished his great 
task, is guided by the spirit of the Grail toward the goal 
which shall end his labors. Borne upon a white 
charger and followed by the blessings of the people, 
whom he has freed from the spell, he is seen passing 
from the land of Amfortas, where peace and plenty 
once more reign. 

* Includes elements of the Perceval story, f From the story of 



Sir Galahad is here in Solomon's Ship, which he has 
found waiting to carry him across the seas to Sarras. 
The Grail, borne by an angel, guides the ship. Sir 
Bors and Sir Percival accompany him. Having sinned 
once, they can never see the Grail themselves, yet, 
having persevered faithfully in the Quest, they have 
acquired the right to follow Sir Galahad and witness 
his achievement. Resting upon a cushion in the stern 
of the ship are three spindles made from the "Tree of 
Life" one snow-white, one green, one blood-red. 
According to an old legend, Eve, when driven from 
the Garden of Eden, carried with her the branch 
which she had plucked from the "Tree of Life." The 
branch, when planted, grew to be a tree, with branches 
and leaves white, in token that Eve was a virgin when 
she planted it. When Cain was begotten, the tree 
turned green; and afterward, when Cain slew Abel, 
the tree turned red. 


The city of Sarras, with the red-cross shield of Gala- 
had, its king, and the sword which he had drawn from 
a block of marble, soon after arriving at Arthur's court. 


Upon a hill at Sarras Sir Galahad made a Sacred 
Place and built a Golden Tree. Morning and evening 
he repaired thither, and from day to day he beautified 
the tree. Finally it is complete, and Joseph of Arima- 
thea, with a company of red-winged seraphs, appears 
with the Grail, now at last uncovered. As Sir Gala- 
had gazes upon it, crown, sceptre, and royal robe fall 
from him; he no longer needs them. Having beheld 
the source of all life and knowledge and power, the 
spirit of Galahad had achieved its end in life, and won 
release from the narrow confines of his body. The 
Grail itself was borne heavenward, never again to be 
seen on earth. 



Opening from the west side of the Delivery Room are 
the Registration Department, where borrowers' cards 
are issued and an index of the standing of card-holders 
is kept, and the Tube Room, with pneumatic tubes 
leading to all the book-stacks. Books are obtained for 
home use by the presentation of call-slips at the window 
in the wall of the Delivery Room, opposite the marble 
mantel; at another window, books are presented for 
return. The books are brought from the shelves 
by small cars, running on to automatic elevators which 
deliver them to the Tube Room from the six stories of 
the book-stacks. 


The corridor past the Registration Desk leads to 
the Librarian's Office, through a lobby in which is kept 
a portion of the Library's collection of manuscripts. 
Above the Registration Department, and reached 
through the Librarian's Office, is the Trustees' Room, 
with rich panelling and furniture of the Empire period, 
and a delicately carved Renaissance mantel, all brought 
from France. In this room hang Copley's great paint- 
ing, "Charles the First demanding the Surrender of the 
Five Members in the House of Commons," which was 
presented to the Library by a group of citizens in 
1859; and a number of portraits, including two of 
Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the most illustrious native 
of Boston. One of these is attributed to Jean Baptiste 
Greuze; the other, the work of Joseph Sifrede Du- 
plessis, is generally regarded as the most satisfactory 
portrait of the great American. 

The lobby of the Trustees' Room contains the valu- 
able collection of autographs bequeathed to the Library 
by Mellen Chamberlain, Librarian from 1 878 to 1 890. 



Outside the entrance to the Delivery Room, at the 
end of the Main Corridor, is the Pompeian Lobby, 
decorated by Mr. Elmer E. Garnsey, of New York. 
The gay decoration, of Roman type, is painted directly 
on the plaster. In this Lobby is a shell-shaped drinking 
fountain of chaillon marble; beside it is a counter at 
which photographs, post-cards and handbooks of the 
Library may be purchased. 

At the opposite end of the Main Corridor is the 
Venetian Lobby, with painted decorations by Mr. Jo- 
seph Lindon Smith, of Boston. Over the door of the 
Children's Room is a sculptured block brought from 
Venice, displaying the Lion of St. Mark supporting an 
open book with the motto of that city. At either side 
of this slab, which dates from the sixteenth century, 
are the figures of two nude boys upholding heavy gar- 
lands. In the recess, above the window, is a painting 
representing the allegorical marriage of Venice, a young 
woman, and the Adriatic, typified by a youth with a 
trident at his feet. Behind, blessing the union, kneels 
St. Theodore, the first patron of Venice, with the 
crocodile which he is said to have slain. In the niches 
are two lists of names those of the most illustrious 
doges of Venice, and those of her greatest painters. 
In the pendentives of the dome over the central portion 
of the Lobby are the names of eleven Italian cities, 
once subject to Venice ; while in the dome at the right, 
over the staircase landing, are the names of the eastern 
possessions of the Queen of the Adriatic. The peacock 
above symbolizes immortality. This Lobby, like the 
Pompeian Lobby described above, is lighted by an 
elaborate lantern of gilded bronze. 

The decorations of these two lobbies are the only 
examples of true mural painting in the Library. All 
the other decorations were painted on canvas, and ap- 
plied to the walls and ceilings after completion. 
















At the north end of the Main Corridor opens the 
Children's Room, which is surrounded by low cases con- 
taining books for little folks. On the side walls hang 
the original paintings by Howard Pyle, used as illus- 
trations to Woodrow Wilson's "George Washington." 
On the entrance wall is a remarkable series of framed 
autographs, drawn from the Chamberlain Collection; 
these include facsimile copies of the Address to ihe 
King by the Continental Congress of 1 774, the Decla- 
ration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, 
and the Constitution of the United States, all followed 
by the actual signatures, cut from letters and business 
papers, of the men who signed these historic documents. 
Below are other framed autographs of great interest, 
including the signatures of hundreds of men famous in 
the annals of the country, and a number of unique 
documents concerning the Boston Massacre, among 
them Paul Revere's plan of the scene, used at the 
trial of the British soldiers. 


Off the Children's Room, to the left, is a room 
beautifully finished in dark oak, containing reference 
books for the use of teachers and school-children. In 
the upper part of the cases, protected by chains, is an 
impressive collection of old books, the library of Presi- 
dent John Adams, bequeathed by him in 1 826 to the 
town of Quincy, and now deposited here in trust. 

On the ceiling is a decoration, 'The Triumph of 
Time," by John Elliott, placed here in 1901. 


The painting contains thirteen winged figures. The 
twelve female figures represent Hours, and the one 


male figure, Time. The Christian Centuries are typi- 
fied by twenty horses, arranged in five rows, of four 
each; in each row the two centre horses are side by 
side, and between these and the outer horses are two 
of the winged figures representing Hours. On either 
side of the car in which is the figure of Time are the 
Hours of Life and Death. Seen from before the door 
of the Children's Room, the design begins in the neigh- 
borhood of the nearer left-hand corner, and describes 
a semi-circle, with a downward sweep over a ground- 
work of clouds, back to the left again, to a point about 
two-thirds across the canvas; it culminates in a disk, 
the sun, before which are the leading horse and the 
figure typifying the present Hour. In the nearer right- 
hand comer is a crescent moon with the full disk faintly 
showing. The shades of gray in which the decoration 
is painted lend to it something of the dignity of sculp- 
ture. One can trace in the horses the artist's conception 
of the spirit of successive centuries; note especially the 
eighteenth, with its nervous forward spring. 


To the rear of the Teachers' Reference Room is the 
Lecture Hall, which is reached by a separate entrance 
from Boylston Street; it is used for courses of free 
lectures held on Sunday afternoons and Thursday 
evenings, and for various other meetings and classes, 
all open to the public. The Hall seats about three 
hundred persons, and has a commodious stage, at the 
rear of which hangs Robert Salmon's interesting paint- 
ing of Boston in 1 829, as seen from Pemberton Hill, 
where the Suffolk County Court House now stands. 
Over the entrance door of the Hall hangs a painting 
by D. Fernandez y Gonzalez, a Spanish artist, repre- 
senting St. Justa and St. Rufina, patron saints of 
Seville, in the prison where they suffered martyrdom 
in the year 287. 





Turning to the left on going out of the Children's 
Room, one ascends to the upper floor of the Library by 
an enclosed stairway of 
gray sandstone, adorned 
only by handrails of 
Alps green marble on 
either side. From the 
landing half-way up, a 
door opens on the bal- 
cony overlooking Bates 

The corridor of the 
upper, or Special Libra- 
ries Floor, is popularly 
called Sargent Hall, 
from the eminent Ameri- 
can painter, John Singer 
Sargent, R.A., who has 
so unstintingly devoted 
his genius to its decoration. It is eighty-four feet long, 
twenty-three feet wide, and twenty-six feet high, with 
a vaulted ceiling, lighted from above. In the middle 
of the west side steps lead up to the Allen A. Brown 
Music Library. 

This long, narrow room, its height greater than its 
width, has been made glorious by the mural decora- 
ations of Mr. Sargent, who received the commission 
for this work in 1 890 ; it represents thirty years of 
thought and labor, and is not yet quite completed. 
Few such records of the progressive development of an 
artist, engaged upon a single theme, exist anywhere in 
ihe world ; this room is the expression of the life-work 
of one of the greatest painters of modern times. The 
following description of Mr. Sargent's work is based on 
that written by Mr. Sylvester Baxter for the earlier 
editions of this Handbook. 




The subject chosen by the artist is conceived as the 
development of religious thought from paganism through 
Judaism to Christianity. The work as it stands has been 
placed in position in four instalments: the paintings at 
the North end of the Hall in 1 895, the South end wall 
in 1 903, the niches and vaulting at the South end and 
the lunettes along the side walls in 1916, and the two 
panels over the staircase in 1919. 

Not only the paintings, but all the decorations of the 
Hall, are the work of Mr. Sargent. He modelled the 
relief of dolphins* above the door of the Music Li- 
brary ; the great frames over the stairs are his work ; 
even the electric fixtures were designed by him. All 
the splendid plastic decoration of the vaulting is the 
product of his hand and brain ; he personally modelled 
the symbolic reliefs which are the chief ornaments of the 
ceiling ; he selected all the mouldings and other elements 
which make up the gorgeous whole, and on which 
depend so largely the unity and architectural beauty 
of the room. Even more significant is the manner in 
which Mr. Sargent has worked out the color harmony 
of the Hall; each element in the great composition 
subtly contributes its part to the large effect, so that 
the eye finds satisfaction wherever it falls. The gold of 
the vaulting binds the whole into a unity, and fuses the 
work of thirty years into a single act; this unity is 
further aided by the grayish-blue used as a ground 
color, which is constantly introduced for relief in con- 
junction with the gold of the architectural decoration. 

This is not the place in which to attempt an estimate 
of the beauty or the artistic importance of the Sargent 
paintings. Their harmony and variety of color, their 
boldness and power of design, their combination of 
subtle intellectual quality with unfailing artistic propri- 

* The repeated use of the dolphin in the decoration of the Li- 
brary is symbolic of the intimate relation of Boston to the sea. 


ety, are obvious to any beholder; no one can visit this 
room and not know that he is in the presence of the 
product of genius, handling a great subject greatly. 
It is more to the point to draw the visitor's attention 

to the unusual 

and daring 
methods taken 
by the artist to 
produce his ef- 
fects, especially 
to the constant 
interchange of 
painting and 
sculpture. This 
is nowhere more 
striking than in 
the majestic fig- 
ure of Moses, 
standing im- 
movable in high 
relief in the 
centre of the 
Frieze of the 
Prophets. The 
use of sculpture 
here gives to the 
figure a monu- 
mental quality 
as the repre- 
sentative of the 
Hebrew religion at the moment when it took on its 
essential character. In the portion of the vaulting 
devoted to the pagan divinities, the employment of 
modelling merely serves to give weight and emphasis to 
the design, and to enrich the decorative quality of the 
work ; its effect is especially marked in the great serpent 
about the neck of the Goddess Neith. 

At the south end of the Hall, the plastic art was 
used to good purpose in the modelling of the faces of the 



three Persons of the Trinity, which are all cast from a 
single mould. The great Crucifix here corresponds as 
a salient feature to the Moses of the opposite end, gain- 
ing a similar emphasis and power from its high relief. 

Modelling is elsewhere used with fine decorative 
effect; perhaps this is nowhere more marked than in 
the candlesticks of Our Lady of Sorrows, where an 
actual perspective is obtained by the use of relief. It 
is interesting to note that the relief is always employed 
for a purpose, and never except where the end justifies 
it; in the Fall of Gog and Magog, for example, the 
sword is painted, not modelled; had it been modelled, 
it might have appeared to be falling out of the picture. 

The sequence of paintings begins at the north end 
of the hall the end farthest from the head of the 
stairs. Its content may be analyzed as follows: 


At the North End of the Hall. 

Celling: Pagan religions of countries surrounding Palestine. 

Lunette: Children of Israel, oppressed by pagan neighbors, ex- 
pressing their dependence on the True God. 

Frieze : The Hebrew Prophets, typifying the progress of the 
Jews in religious thought, with final expectation of the Messiah. 

In the Eastern Lunettes. 

Left : The downfall of paganism, as preached by Hebrew prophets. 
Centre : The Hebrew ideal the chosen people protected by 

Jehovah, through its observance of the Law. 
Right: The Messianic era, foretold by Hebrew prophets. 


At the South End of the Hall 
Lunette: Doctrine of the Trinity. 
Frieze and Crucifix: Doctrine of the Redemption. 
Ceiling and Niches: Doctrine of the Incarnation. 

In the Western Lunettes. 
Left: Heaven. Centre: The Judgment. Right: Hell. 


On the East Wall. 
Left panel: The Synagogue. Right panel: The Church. 



The decoration of the north end comprises three sec- 
tions, the narrow strip of vaulting in the last bay of the 
hall, the lunette on the end wall, and the frieze below 
both lunette and vault. 

The lunette represents the Children of Israel beneath 
the yoke of their oppressors, on the left the Egyptian 
Pharaoh, on the right the King of Assyria, their arms 
uplifted to strike with sword and scourge. The Isra- 
elites are typified by twelve nude figures ; some crouch, 
despairing, under the yoke of Assyria; the hand of 
Pharaoh grasps the hair of those in the centre; but 
already a number raise their hands in supplication to 
Jehovah, and in the background can be seen the flames 
of the sacrifice rising to the True God. Above, the 
wings of the Seraphim screen the face of the All Holy, 
upon which no man may look; only his mighty arms 
may be seen, stretched forth to stay the oppressors. 
Prostrate victims beneath the feet of both Assyrian and 
Egyptian represent the other nations that were con- 


quered by them, while behind each are figures sym- 
bolizing the national deities. Upon the gold ground 
of the rib which separates the lunette from the ceiling 
are inscribed the following passages from Psalm 106: 
'They forgat God their saviour, which had done great 
things in Egypt, and they served idols, which were a 
snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and 
their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, 
even the blood of their sons and their daughters, unto 
the idols of Canaan. Therefore was the wrath of the 
Lord kindled against his people, and he gave them 
into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them 
ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, 
and they were brought into subjection under their hand. 
Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard 
their cry, and he remembered for them his covenant." 
These passages constitute a link between the paintings 

of the vaulting and those of 
the lunettes, and are a com- 
mentary upon them. 

On the vaulting are re- 
presented the pagan divini- 
ties, the strange gods whom 
the Children of Israel went 
after when they turned from 
Jehovah. Underlying all, 
her feet touching the cornice 
upon one side, her hands 
upon the other, is the gi- 
gantic shadowy form of the 
Egyptian goddess Neith, 
mother of the Universe. 
Her body is the Firmament, 
whose stars shine on her 
swarthy breast. Her col- 
lar is a golden zodiac, its 
gem the disk of the sun, 
whose rays end in hands 
opened to shed bounty upon 



the earth. About her neck 
she wears the serpent of 
the sun-myth, with its sym- 
bolism of the eternal con- 
flict between summer and 
winter : on one side Adonis, 
typifying the warmth of 
spring, is discharging an 
arrow into the throat of the 
defiant serpent; on the 
other the serpent crushes 
him in its folds, which con- 
ceal the zodiacal signs of 
the six winter months. 

The central figure on the 
left of the arch is Moloch, 
god of material things, a 
hideous monster with the 
sun between the horns of 
his bull's head, and out- 
stretched hands clutching 
his infant victims. Below 
him stand the sombre figures of the Egyptian trinity 
Osiris (in the centre), Isis and Horus. At their feet 
the hawk of the soul hovers over an Egyptian mummy; 
just above the cornice is the symbol of the winged sun. 

On the right, opposite, is the soulless figure of As- 
tarte, the Phoenician goddess of sensuality. Veiled 
in blue, she stands upon the crescent moon, between 
slender columns; behind her is the tree of life, whose 
pine cones project on either side. Within her veil six 
enticing female figures wave their arms in rhythmic 
dance, while two of her victims are gnawed by mon- 

The third division of this portion of the work is the 
Frieze of the Prophets, with Moses as the central figure 
holding the tablets brought down from Sinai; thus 
is symbolized the foundation of the religion of Israel 
upon the structure of the Law. The prophets in their 




order from left to right are: Zephaniah, Joel, Oba- 
diah, Hosea, Amos, Nahum, Ezekiel, Daniel, Elijah, 
Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, 
Micah, Haggai, Malachi, Zechariah; the last three 
have outstretched arms, and faces expectant of the 

The portion of the decoration in corresponding posi- 
tion at the oppo- 
site end of the 
hall sets forth 
the Dogma of 
the Redemption, 
and to this lead 
up the three Ju- 
daic lunettes on 
the east wall, above the staircase. Of these the 
subjects are: in the centre, "The Law"; on the left, 
'The Fall of Gog and Magog" ; and on the right, 
'The Messianic Era". The three lunettes on the 
west wall, opposite, set forth the development of the 
Christian concepts of 'The Judgment," in the centre, 
with "Hell" on the right, and on the left, 'The 

Passing of Souls 
into Heaven." 

In their turbu- 
lent, terrible, and 
chaotic qualities 
both the "Hell" 
and the "Gog 
and Magog" 
agree in spirit with the work in the adjacent Old- 
Testament end dealing with primitive beliefs grounded 
in fear. In the other four paintings beauty and con- 
cord dominate. In "The Law," Israel is seen under 
the mantle of Jehovah, fulfilling the mission of his race 
in giving himself up to the study of the divine law laid 
down for the guidance of the Chosen People. In- 
scribed in Hebrew below the arch are the words of the 











Jewish ritual spoken before the recitation of the Com- 
mandments, a portion of which appears upon the scroll 
of the Law. 

The lunette on the left, "The Fall of Gog and Ma- 
gog," pictures the final moment when all things earthly 
shall perish and the universe shall come to an end. 
Altar, temple, chariot and horses, victor's palm and 

bloody sword fall 
tumbling through 
space, along with 
Saturn and a 
blazing comet; 
the two figures 
suggest Mars 
and Mercury. 
In contrast with this, at the other end of the wall, 
we see dawning 'The Messianic Era." The race, 
purified and perfected of soul, under the leadership of 
a lad, the Son of Man, enters into a new paradise, the 
gates of which are swung open by beautiful youths. 
Upon the scroll is lettered in Hebrew the prophecy 
of Isaiah, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a 
son is given ; and 

the government ^T^SIO'l!H |f ' 1 * t 

shall be upon his 
shoulders ; and 
his name shall be 
called Wonder- 
ful, Counsellor, 
The Mighty 
God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." 
Other prophecies of Isaiah are indicated by the wolf 
and the lamb, the child and the lion, the pomegranate, 
the fig and the vine. 

At the south end of the hall is set forth the Dogma 
of the Redemption, with the related theme of the In- 
carnation. Just as the figure of Moses, with the Law 
as the central fact of the religion of the Jews, forms 




the focal point in the first decoration, so here the 
Crucifix, bearing the figure of the Redeemer who 
satisfied the Law and brought a new dispensation, 
takes a similar central position. 

In the lunette above, seated in state upon a mag- 
nificent throne, are three colossal figures, the Persons 
of the Trinity. That the three are one is made mani- 
fest by the exact similarity of the faces and by the 
fact that one vast garment envelops and unites them. 
This cope of red has an orphrey of gold which runs 
through the picture like a ribbon, winding about the 
persons of the Trinity and inscribed with the word 
Sanctus, meaning Holy, continually repeated. The 
heads of the Trinity wear each a different form of 
crown, while each figure raises the right hand in bene- 
diction in the Eastern manner ; the central Person bears 
in his left hand the orb of dominion. 

On the cross is the figure of the dying Christ, with 
Adam and Eve, typifying humanity, kneeling on either 


side. They are bound closely to the body of Christ, 
since all are of one flesh, and each holds a chalice to 
receive the Precious Blood. About the feet of Adam 
is entangled the Serpent of Temptation. Above the 
cross there is inscribed in Latin, "The sins of the world 
have been forgiven." At the foot of the cross the 
Saviour is symbolized by the pelican feeding its young 
with its own blood, while around the lunette doves 
typify the Seven Gifts of 
the Holy Ghost. 

On the cornice that sepa- 
rates the frieze from the 
lunette is a Latin inscrip- 
tion,* which may be ren- 
dered, "I, God in the flesh, 
man's maker and redeemer, 
myself made man, redeem 
both body and soul." 

In the frieze of the An- 
gels which flanks the Cruci- 
fix on both sides, we have a 
balance for the frieze of the 
Prophets opposite. These 
angels, whose faces are of 
singular beauty, bear the in- 
struments of the Passion: 
the sponge, the reed, the 
nails, the spear, the hammer 
and pincers, the pillar, the 
scourge, the crown of 
thorns, the ladder. The 
two angels upholding the 
cross bear, wrought on their garments, the convention- 
alized symbols of the Eucharist, wheat and wine. 

In the niche on the east wall is portrayed the Hand- 
maid of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary with her Di- 
vine Child. The Virgin is just rising from her throne ; 

* Following, with the substitution of redimo for judico, an inscrip- 
tion in the Cathedral of Cefalu, Sicily (A.D. 1 148). 



the Child in her arms raises his hand in benediction. Two 
angels above uphold a crown bearing the Dove; about 
them winds a scroll upon which in Latin are inscribed 
the traditional titles: Vessel of the Spirit, Chosen Ves- 
sel, Inclosed Garden, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory. 
Opposite, on the west wall, Our Lady of Sorrows is 
represented as a statue above an altar behind a screen 
of lighted candles. The figure, which has an elaborate 

silver crown and 
halo, and is vested 
in a cope, stiff with 
embroidery, stands 
upon the crescent 
moon. The seven 
swords thrust into 
the heart of the Vir- 
gin typify the Seven 

Upon the vault 
between these two 
niches are repre- 
sented the events in 
the life of Christ 
and of the Blessed 
Virgin, collectively 
called the Fifteen 
Mysteries, medita- 
tion upon which is 
practised in the re- 
cital of the Rosary. 
The Mysteries are divided into three groups: the 
Joyful Mysteries, centering about the birth of Christ; 
the Sorrowful Mysteries, centered in His death; and 
the Glorious Mysteries, including the Resurrection, the 
Ascension, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. 
Above the Madonna and Child are the five Joyful 
Mysteries. The first in the group, "The Annunciation," 
fills the central rectangular panel. The Angel Gabriel 
appears to the Virgin who, kneeling before God's mes- 





senger, receives in humility the marvelous tidings. Upon 
a decorative scroll appear the words of the angelic salu- 
tation, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord 
is with thee: blessed art thou among women," and the 
reply, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto 
me according to thy word." The Virgin appears to 
have been reading Isaiah's prophecy of the birth of 
Christ. In the oblong panel to the left we have 
'The Visitation," the meeting of Mary and her cousin 
Elizabeth. The panel below depicts "The Nativity" ; 
Mary and John the Baptist adore the new-born Infant, 
flanked by two angels 
bearing the crown of 
thorns and the nails. In 
the small panel above is & 
depicted 'The Presen- 
tation," at the moment 
when Simeon takes the 
Child in his arms. In 
the panel on the right is 
represented "The Find- 
ing of Our Lord in the 

Opposite, on the west 
side of the arch, are depicted the five Sorrowful Mys- 
teries. In the small panel at the top is the first of the 
series, "The Agony in the Garden." In the panel on 
the right is shown 'The Scourging," while that on 
the left presents "The Crowning with Thorns." The 
small panel below is occupied by "The Carrying of the 
Cross." These four compositions lead up to the central 
subject, "The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord." 

In the centre of the arch are the medallion and 

surrounding reliefs which represent the five Glorious 

Mysteries. To the left of the medallion, below, is 

shown 'The Resurrection," and to the right, above, 

'The Ascension;" in the remaining quarters are shown 

'The Descent of the Holy Ghost" (lower right-hand) , 

and 'The Assumption of the Virgin" (upper left- 



hand). The great circle of the medallion is filled by 
the relief depicting 'The Coronation of the Virgin," 
the interpretation of the inscription within the rim being, 
"Hail, Queen of Heaven! Come, my chosen one, and 
I will set thee on my throne." 

In the spaces outside the panels are subordinate figures 
and designs. Surrounding the central relief are the em- 
blems of the Evangelists, Matthew and Luke at the left, 
John and Mark at the right. Above the Madonna and 
Child are Eve, and the Mother of God ; in similar po- 
sitions above Our Lady of Sorrows are Adam, and the 

Good Shepherd. In the 
little circular frames di- 
rectly over the Madon- 
nas are the head of John 
the Baptist at the left, 
and the handkerchief of 
Veronica at the right. 

On the vaulting be- 
tween the two long walls 
appear in relief various 
conventional symbols, in 
two series. Beginning 

PEACOCKS OF IMMORTALITY. ^ ^ northeast ^^ 

of the vaulting, above "The Fall of Gog and Magog," 
and going from left to right around the hall, the first 
series, at the junctions of the vaulting ribs with the 
frames of the skylights, consists of the Scroll of the 
Law and the Seven-Branched Candlestick, the Head of 
Burnt Offering, the Instruments of Music, the Taber- 
nacle of the Eucharist, the Victor's Crown and Palms, 
and the Eucharistic Chalice. The second series, the 
medallions in the penetrations of the intersecting vaults, 
comprises the Head of the Scape-goat with the Instru- 
ments of the Sacrifice, the Ark of the Covenant, the 
Seven-Branched Candlestick, the Peacocks of Immor- 
tality, the Petrine Tiara and Keys, and the Monogram 
of Salvation. The symbols on the east are Jewish, 
those on the west Christian, in origin. 


In the central lunette on the west wall, 'The 
Judgment" balances "The Law" opposite, the angel 
holding before him the great scales in which are 
weighed the souls of the dead, called forth from the 
opening graves by the sound of the trumpet. From the 
scales the condemned are thrust down by demons into 
hell-fire, while the souls of just men made perfect are 
received into the arms of angels. This conception of 
the weighing of souls is of Egyptian origin, and figures 
also in Greek religious thought. 

The two companion lunettes on this wall continue 
the central composition. In the "Hell" is seen a Sa- 
tanic monster swimming in a sea of flame and devour- 
ing the multitude of lost souls. The handling suggests 
interminability, tempestuous with evil a unity of dis- 
cordance. No painting in the entire series shows 
greater power or technical mastery than this. 

In contrast, the composition on the left expresses 
the divine harmony which attends the entrance of the 
blessed into the heavenly kingdom. The movement 
begun in the central lunette is here continued. The 
celestial choir is symbolized by the three groups of sing- 
ing angels with their harps ; around them, weaving itself 
in and out, winds the endless chain of the redeemed. 

The latest additions to Mr. Sargent's work are the 
two panels in the architectural frames over the stair- 
case, put in place in the autumn of 1919. These are 
mediaeval in their point of view, and are entitled re- 
spectively "Church" and "Synagogue." 

As will be seen from the analysis on page 44, the 
sequence of paintings shows the steady progress in the 
development of religious thought from pagan through 
Jewish and Christian channels, well into the Middle 
Ages ; there is careful balance between the Hebraic and 
Christian conceptions, point by point, as far as possible. 

The new panels continue this balance, from the 
standpoint of mediaeval Christianity. The Hebrew 
faith, which Mr. Sargent has sympathetically shown as 
the great forerunner of Christianity, was regarded by 


mediaeval churchmen as having forfeited its high place 
through its failure to recognize the claim of Christ as the 
expected Messiah, and was accordingly represented as 
blind and dethroned; the Church itself was naturally 
depicted as having succeeded to both the vision and 
the leadership lost by the Jewish religion. This view 

was expressed 
in the art of the 
Middle Ages 
by the opposi- 
tion of two fig- 
ures, the Syna- 
gogue, sightless 
and fallen ; the 
Church, out- 
looking and tri- 
umphant. This 
phase of reli- 
gious thought 
Mr. Sargent, 
still preserving 
his balance, has 
embodied in 
these panels. 

It is interest- 
ing to note that 
in mediaeval 
art, the figure 
of the Church 
is commonly at 
the left, the Synagogue at the right; the positions are 
here transposed, in order to bring the Synagogue at the 
Hebrew end, and the Church at the Christian end of 
the Hall. 

Following out these conceptions, and preserving a 
wonderful color-harmony between the two panels and 
the other work at the related ends of the Hall, Mr. 
Sargent has represented the Synagogue as a gray-haired 
woman of massive frame, seated in an attitude of 


despair upon the worn and broken step of a temple, 
above a mosaic pavement; her eyes are blindfolded, 
the crown is falling from her head, her powerful arms 
clutch to her breast a broken sceptre and the Tables of 
the Law. About her, filling much of the frame, are the 
folds of a great curtain, the decoration of which consists 
of convention- 
alized Seraphim 
the same 
winged shapes 
which shroud 
the face of Je- 
hovah in the 
lunette at the 
north end of 
the Hall. The 
picture presents 
the loss of dig- 
nity and of 
empire through 
loss of vision, 
which was the 
mediaeval view 
of the fate of 
the Jewish re- 

The other 
panel presents 
the mediaeval 
Church, as con- 
ceived by herself. Upon a great throne sits a powerful 
female figure, stiff, solid, statuesque, with mystic gaze 
fixed on space ; her dress is that of a nun. The elbows 
of the figure rest on the arms of the throne; in the 
right hand is the chalice of the Eucharist, in the left, the 
Host in a monstrance ; across the arms lies a humeral 
veil. Between the knees of the Church, with arms 
resting limply upon them, is the figure of the dead 
Christ, with wounds in hands and feet, and wearing 


the crown of thorns; the figure is largely covered by 
the folds of the Church's robe. On the sides of the 
throne, typifying the foundation of the Christian faith 
upon Hebrew prophecy, are inscribed the names Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel; while about the head 
of the Church are grouped the symbols of the four 
Evangelists: Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke. 

The central panel above the stairway remains the 
sole portion of the Hall which Mr. Sargent has not 
yet decorated. 


From Sargent Hall open three doors, of which the 
one in the centre, at the head of a short flight of steps, 
leads to the Allen A. Brown Music Library. This 
room, of beautiful proportions, contains the valuable 
collection of works of music and allied subjects given 
to the Library in 1 894 by the man whose name it 
bears. At the south end of the room is a finely sculp- 
tured mantel of white Siena marble, over which hangs 
a life-size photographic portrait of Mr. Brown. In 
this room is preserved an interesting old piano, made 
by Benjamin Crehore, of Milton, about the year 1 800. 


From the north end of Sargent Hall one enters 
the Barton -Ticknor Library, in which are preserved the 
rarest treasures of the institution. These consist largely 
of special collections given to the Library from time 
to time, each representative of the tastes of its donor. 
Among these collections should be mentioned the Bar- 
ton Library of Shakespeareana and other Elizabethan 
books ; the collection of Spanish and Portuguese books 
made by the late George Ticknor, a Trustee of the 
Library, in writing his History of Spanish Literature; 
the Brown Dramatic Collection, consisting of books on 
the history of the theatre given by the late Allen A. 


Brown, donor of the Music Collection; trie Galatea 
Collection of books by and about women, the gift of the 
late Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson; the Prince 
Library, bequeathed to the Old South Church by its 
pastor in 1758, and deposited here for safe-keeping; 
and other collections. In this portion of the building 
is also kept the Library's great collection of maps. 
Among the objects in the Barton -Ticknor Room are 
the silver vase given to Daniel Webster by citizens of 
Boston ; a chair made from the wood of the Old Elm 
on Boston Common ; and the desk of George Ticknor. 


From the opposite end of Sargent Hall one enters 
a series of rooms occupied by the Divisions of Fine 
Arts and Technology. The first of these, the Exhibi- 
tion Room, is used for the display of books and pictures 
from the collections of the Library. The exhibitions, 
which are frequently changed, usually illustrate some 
topic of current interest. In this room are also a num- 
ber of marble statues, including W. W. Story's Ar- 
cadian Shepherd, a replica of the bust of Powers's 
Greek Slave, and copies of the Venus de Medici and 
Canova's Venus. In the corners of the room, on stand- 
ards, are lithographic copies of famous paintings, pub- 
lished by the Arundel Society of London ; on the south 
wall hangs a large lithograph of the Cathedral of St. 
Mark, Venice. 


Beyond the Exhibition Room is a corridor occupied 
by the Library's collection of photographs, contained 
in cases. Through this are reached the reading rooms 
devoted respectively to technological books and to those 
in the field of the Fine Arts. The Fine Arts Reading 
Room, across the rear of the building, is a well-lighted 
gallery of fine proportions, specially suited to the use of 
students of art. 



At the rear of this floor, in the Annex recently built 
on Blagden Street, are situated the Printing and Bind- 
ing Departments of the Library; in these departments 
are done all the printing needed by the institution, and 
the binding of about 40,000 volumes annually. 

Other rooms in the building, of no special interest 
to the sightseer, are the Statistical Department, in the 
rear of the second floor, devoted to works in the fields 
of economics, finance, and statistics, and to Government 
Documents of all sorts; the Branch Department, in 
which the interchange of books between the Central 
Library and its branches is carried on; the rooms de- 
voted to newspaper files and patents; and the book- 
stacks, occupying six floors on the south and west 
sides of the court, and containing more than eight 
hundred thousand volumes. 

Further facts about the Library and its operation 
will be found in the leaflet entitled "The Boston Public 
Library; a Condensed Guide," which may be obtained 
without charge at the Information Office, first floor, and 
at the Centre Desk in Bates Hall.